By Miramon Nuevo
It’s an exciting time at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish in Ontario. Last month, Bishop Rojas visited the parish to celebrate a multicultural Mass and bless a series of new renovations and additions at the parish. These include reupholstered pews and celebrant’s chair, an upgraded and repositioned choir platform, new church doors, additions to the chapel, renovations to the parish office, a statue of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and most notably, a beautiful new Shrine of Mary, Mother of the Unborn.
The 5-foot-9 white marble statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary is truly extraordinary. Unlike the other images of the Blessed Mother where she is portrayed as majestic and queenly, this presents Mary in a humble, ordinary light. Wrapped in her loving arms are three unborn babies pressed dearly to her breast as if she were saying to them, “Don’t be afraid, you’re safe with me now. I’m your Mother.” Her lips are slightly smiling, yet there’s no denying that her eyes reveal great sorrow in her soul. Including the 3-foot base that she’s sitting on, the statue is almost 9 feet tall. A wrought iron fence surrounds the statue and the benches around it.
“We intentionally chose this size of the statue because we want it to be an imposing reminder of the sanctity of the human life. We want people to be drawn to it, to have a sense of wonder at the sight of it, and then be reminded that we need to respect, love, protect and care for life from the moment of conception to natural death,” said Father Cristobal Subosa, the parish’s pastor and himself a strong pro-life advocate who for quite a long time had been dreaming of erecting a shrine of the Blessed Mother dedicated to the unborn.
“We consider it a shrine, a special area in our parish specifically dedicated for prayer and quiet meditation, so people can really contemplate the beauty and sacredness of life,” Fr. Subosa added.
For parish parochial vicar Father Julian Okoroanyanwu, the shrine speaks to the parish’s strong pro-life ethos. “We have been blessed here at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton with a community that is overwhelmingly generous and who upholds the sanctity of life to the utmost with fierce conviction and unwavering resolve,” said Fr. Okoroanyanwu. “True change begins with community like this, people who are strong in their faith and who are unafraid to defend their faith no matter what.”
According to official statistics released by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Guttmacher Institute, respectively, more than 63 million abortions have occurred in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade in 1973 and more than 32 million lives are lost to abortion every year in the world.
In June 24, 2022, in a historic decision, the U.S. Supreme Court officially reversed Roe v. Wade. Justice Samuel Alito said that the 1973 Roe ruling and subsequent court decisions reaffirming Roe “must be overruled” because they were “egregiously wrong.”
While abortion may seem like the easiest way to escape a confusing and scary situation at first, it can leave scars “that last a lifetime,” according to Bishop Rojas.
“Abortion does not affirm the beauty and value of life that God has given us. It promotes the culture of death,” Bishop Rojas explained.
“Let us use our prophetic voices to speak out on the realities of abortion, let us commit ourselves as people of faith to advocate for life, but do so in the spirit of civility that shows our respect for dignity of human life including those who do not agree with us,” he added.
Tne parishioner agreed to talk to the BYTE on the condition of anonymity about her experience with having an abortion.
“The morning after the abortion was done, I immediately felt empty. I felt like something was missing,” she shared. “I cried myself to sleep every night after. I held on to that trauma for 24 years before God started to show me I needed healing from this. That abortion was the root of many poor decisions I made in my life. The poor self-esteem I carried. Never feeling good about myself. My abortion was the worst decision I ever made.”
She went on to say, “I know God has forgiven me but I can’t seem to forgive myself. Looking at this image of Mother Mary somehow gives me that faint joy that wherever my baby is now, Mother Mary is there taking care of her.”
Cynthia Grace Bacud and Marisol Fuentes, on the other hand, agreed to reveal their names in their earnest hope that young women in the parish would learn from their stories.
“I come from a tightly-knit Asian family and my parents said I couldn’t bring a bi-racial child into the world. I felt so confused, scared, abandoned and worthess. So I aborted the only child I ever conceived,” said Bacud.
“Years later, when I told my parents that I had an abortion, they said that they regretted having said those words to me, but it’s too late. The damage was done. They didn’t realize how jarring those words were to me at that time. Right now, I have breast cancer and it is already in its advanced stage, and my doctors said that my cancer and abortion are linked together,” Bacud added.
Fuentes bemoaned her “reckless” lifestyle during college and blamed much of her bad decisions then to “complete lack of faith in God.”
“I was with a guy who I knew I wasn’t going to end up with. I wasn’t in love with him. I was with him because I was lonely, and vice versa. More importantly, I was still in college and I wasn’t ready to have a child ... the decision for an abortion was emotionally painful, yet I didn’t feel like I had a choice at the time. If I had realized how much I would regret my decision, I wouldn’t have gone through with it,” Fuentes shared.
“I think about whether it was a boy or girl, what he or she would have looked like, and whether or not he or she would have had my eyes. I think about it all the time. These questions tear me apart over and over again. I always thought that I’d move past it eventually, but it’s only gotten worse ... Even though the baby doesn’t exist anymore, its brief existence in my womb changed my life forever. I wish I could go back in time and change my own mind. I would hold my newborn child in my arms and never let go,” Fuentes said, crying.
The pain that abortion brings underscores the need for our Blessed Mother. As Bishop Rojas said, “Be not discouraged, but have recourse to Mary in all your necessities, sufferings, fears. Call her to your assistance for such is the Divine will that she should help in every kind of necessity. Love Our Lady and she will obtain abundant grace to help you conquer in your daily struggle. Wasn’t she herself who said ‘Am I not here your Mother? Why are you afraid?’”
Miramon Nuevo is a freelance writer and a parishioner of Our Lady of Lourdes, Montclair. A retired sports columnist and boxing analyst, he now lives with his wife, Justine, and three children in Fontana.